Reverb10 Day 22: Travel.  How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year? Courtesy of Tara Hunt.

It’s ironic, really. 2010, on paper, sucked. Job loss: check. Money struggles: check. Dating fiascoes: check.  Amid all that, though, were such wonderful experiences of joy, wonder and awe. Reminders that the world is good if I choose to see it that way. Reminders that the ‘bad’ things define my life only if I let them. And this prompt, about travel, is a perfect example.

Despite the scarcity of the year I traveled more than I have since I became a mother.  A weekend trip to Estes Park, where I stood and gazed at the majesty of the mountains and trees, felt alive when the wind hit my face and melted into the 70’s era corner booth as I enjoyed the most delicious pancake I’ve ever tasted. Smiling inside as we drove through the quirky little towns, sampled coffee at tiny, independent coffee shops that put my beloved Starbucks to shame, and soaking up the beauty that was Breckenridge made me long for the ability to stretch time.

I wasn’t sure how to enjoy the freedom of time; the freedom of not having someone constantly asking for something; the freedom of silence. It was uncomfortable at first, and the only drawback to weekend trips is that once I adjust to the freedom I am back home, again tethered to reality and wistfully drifting back to thoughts of quiet.

Fast forward a couple of months and I found myself on a plane headed for San Francisco.  I’d been to California, briefly, twice before but never long enough to really experience it. A whirlwind trip through Muir Woods, Sonoma, Carmel, Yosemite, Chinatown, Little Italy, the Pier and driving up and down the coast was indescribable. I loved the subtle chill of the air combined with the warmth of the sun, the people watching, the amazing food. What I loved most of all, though, was the water.

As we approached the ocean at Carmel, I took my shoes and socks off and walked right in. The friend I was with hung back; I’m not sure, even now, if he thought I was crazy. He probably did. I couldn’t be that close, though, and not take the opportunity to actually step right in. The water was so cold…icy, almost so much that it hurt to just stand there. But the beauty of feeling the water, opening my arms to embrace the simple beauty of just being there; there aren’t words, really, to explain how at peace I felt right at that moment.

I don’t know if it was the quiet, the beauty of nature or the combination of so many other things but I was moved to tears so many times during that trip. Standing at Pier 39 and watching the sea lions sun on dock, standing on a rock on the edge of the ocean in Sonoma, tasting fresh avocados on my breakfast crepe….it was all so much, so quickly, that I couldn’t hold back the tears.  Happy tears.

Fast forward yet a few more months and I found myself back in Chicago, my second home and where I sometimes think I left a little piece of myself.  I hadn’t been back since Erin was a year old…..six years. So much had changed. Yet it was still the same. I realized how much I miss the color of the city, the buzz in the air, the electricity. A different type  of wonder than the beauty of Estes or San Francisco, but wonder nonetheless.  I remembered, for a brief moment, how I felt like the future was mine to grasp, how I felt alive and ready to take on the world. I pondered when those feelings left, if I had driven them away or if it was a typical byproduct of growing up and moving on. I marveled at the promise I saw wherever I looked, whether it was the promise of love, the promise of wealth or simply the promise of opportunity. I vowed to not wait another six years before coming back.

In 2011 I want to explore. I want to get in the car, without an itinerary and  drive until I see a cool little second hand store . I want to stop and piddle, without worrying about where I need to be next. I want to eat at mom and pop stops instead of Applebee’s, stand at the edge and look down, watch the sunset. I want to see Oregon, Wyoming and quiet places that strike me with such understated beauty AND the big lights of busy cities, sampling the cuisine of new worlds and settling into a theater seat to be transported to someone else’s world. I want to tour the Tuscan countryside, learn how to make fresh pasta, and smell the rosemary in the air. So many places….